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January 10, 2008

Laurel - part 1

I thought the questions that Dr. Jerz asked in the J-web assignments were excellent...insofar that they were the main points I wanted to discuss in my blog.

I didn't really know what to expect when I first saw this book. When it arrived in the mail a few days ago, I was even more confused. Once I picked it up, though, I was hooked. Laurel's style was both unique and inviting, but also biting and sarcastic. She somewhat reminded me of, well, me.

I enjoyed the discussion on the concept of a "Culture worker," as I found it to be interesting terminology. Laurel identifies that being a "culture worker" is not a simple, one-dimensional concept or idea. Being a "culture worker," instead, is acting as an agent of change within a society. Specifically, Laurel takes charge at the game industry, with talking heads and elder-statesmen defining what boys like, just as Matel Corp. had decided, and thereby defined, what girls like.

The idea of the culture worker is not one of power and prestige, but instead it is a position where the individual attempts, not always successfully, to create positively influencing forms of popular culture, either through music, games, or movement (in the abstract). These "culture workers" are not simply business people attempting to tap into the market of positive lifestyle changes to turn a quick profit, but instead they are people who would be willing to continue their work without making a single penny of profit, as the reward transcends monetary need.

The importance is that it establishes the needs and wants of a people by actually speaking with people, instead of being told by market researchers and "pencil pushers." Instead of a middle aged male telling the world what kind of toys girls wanted, culture workers speak to girls of all walks of life.

Laurel also brings up the point about values and morals in games. I have been a large proponent that games can, and do, teach invaluable lessons in life for the player...as long as the right hands are at work, both in coding and in moving the joystick around.

As is the case with most forms of media, "values are everywhere." When one decides to use a certain medium, however, to evangelize, it becomes a question of tact.

For the father who worried that Laurel was attempting to evangelize through the game, one must consider and take charge to what he says, as he makes a valid point, but is also terribly wrong in his defense.

While trying to impress values upon someone overtly is not the smartest course of action (all the time), it is not necessarily a bad thing. One must ask what type of values are being pressed upon these children. If the game was teaching his daughter that killing was good (as Mortal Kombat does), or that all people are inherently evil (also, as Mortal Kombat does), well, that would be a cause for concern.

When a game encourages strong values, universal values, such as compassion and friendship, caring for the less fortunate, well, isn't it the responsibility of society to enforce these values in daily life? The saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" certainly applies here.

One must also consider how involved this parent is when he claims that fighting games have no values. Specifically the games of "Mortal Kombat" and "Killer Instinct." If nothing else, these games enforce the values to violence and gruesome murder are perfectly acceptable means of resolving problems. Sure, it may not be overtly presented, but children are perceptive of subtle things.

Laurel presents the argument, to which I agree, that the father's responses are illogical. He took a stand that openly showing positive values (being a culture worker) was far more damaging, because, as he said, "whose values are these?" Well, they fall in line with numerous doctrines. You can choose whichever you like, be it Pacem in Terris or the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The secular and the spiritual both aim for the same goals. So do these games.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 10, 2008 12:36 AM


I'm glad to know this morning's J-Web questions helped spark some excellent thoughts later on.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 10, 2008 12:54 AM

I also agree with you about how unique the book was. Once I began reading I just didn't want to put it down. I really like your explanation of a culture worker because they want to create positive forms of popular culture like you noted. I also believe that the values of compassion and friendship are taught in life. This is an important concept that games can teach. I thought this blog entry was very informative and realted to everyday life. I especially enjoyed reading the last few paragraphs and the last one where you list specific doctrines.

Posted by: Derek Tickle at January 10, 2008 10:14 AM

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